These Top 3 Short Hikes in Glacier National Park are all located from the Going to the Sun Road. They’re easily accessible, great for children, and the most scenic of the short hikes in Glacier.
We’ve met a lot of people who are on vacation in Glacier National Park. And across the board everyone is looking for the best short hikes to do. Short hikes are perfect for a half day adventure, or as a little something to do on rest days in between bigger hikes.
So today I’ve compiled the 3 best short hikes in Glacier that will hopefully help you plan your trip. All three hikes are good for children. And the Trail of the Cedars at the Avalanche Lake trailhead is wheelchair accessible as well.
While there are some other great short hikes in Glacier, they’re all off the beaten path, and could mean hours of driving out of your way. So I haven’t included them here in this list.
Each of these 3 hikes begins from the Going to the Sun Road which is the main route through Glacier. I’m listing them here in the order they come on your journey through the Going to the Sun Road, starting from the west entrance of the park.
Let’s dive right in to my Top 3 Short Hikes in Glacier National Park!
If you enter the park through the west entrance, the first of the 3 hikes you’ll come to is Avalanche Lake, (see below photo). The Avalanche Lake trail starts with the Trail of the Cedars which is a 1 mile boardwalk and paved trail.
And as you might have guessed winds it’s way through the cedars. About 1/2 mile in, you get to see Avalanche Gorge (see 1st photo, and photo below) which is really beautiful all season long.
From there the Avalanche Lake Trail takes off, and you hike along the creek and through sun dappled woods. After about 2 miles until you reach the lake. The Avalanche Lake hike is 5 miles roundtrip with around 500 feet of elevation gain.
There are also a few benches at the lake where you can sit and enjoy your lunch. Or you can wait until you get back to the parking area where you’ll find a picnic area near the creek.
This photo of Avalanche Lake was taken in May, and by mid-June to July the snow has almost always disappeared. I’ve been to Avalanche Lake more times than I can count, and I’ve always enjoyed the trip no matter what the season is!
The photo below was taken near Thanksgiving time, and of course the scenery is quite different. Avalanche Lake is one hike that’s open more months of the year that most hikes in the park. And since it’s short with little elevation gain, we take anyone who comes to visit hiking here!
The 2nd of the 3 hikes you’ll come to is Hidden Lake Overlook which takes off from the Logan’s Pass visitor’s center. It’s about 2.7 miles roundtrip with 540 feet of elevation gain. I’ve also been on this hike more times than I can count in all seasons, and it’s unbelievable every time!
The pictures here with the snow were taken early in the year just after Logan’s Pass opened in the last days of June. The snow often lingers into the 1st of 2nd week of July which shocks most people visiting.
This hike is also one of my favorites to do as soon as they open the road (which is usually the end of June to early July). You’ll find several feet of snow still on the ground so be prepared if you’re coming early in the season.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen slipping around on the snow packed trail in flip flops. And while you’d always want to see the view on your vacation, it might be a little more comfortable with real trail worthy footwear.
From this hike, you’ll have wonderful views looking out towards the St. Mary’s valley with miles of peaks everywhere you look!
The photo below was taken in late September just before the road closed for the season. No matter what time you’re coming, this hike is always stunning. Although I will warn you it’s extremely crowded most of July and August!
If you want to add more to your hike to Hidden Lake, you can continue down the trail that will lead you right down to the waters edge.
The last of the 3 hikes is St. Mary and Virginia Falls which roundtrip is 3.6 miles with a 525 feet elevation gain. We did this trail in early July of this year.
And it was a great half day hike with little waterfalls all the way up the trail, and the 2 major waterfalls as well! St. Mary’s falls is pictured above and Virginia Falls is pictured below.
Each of these hikes is great in their own way, and worth doing depending on what area you’re in at the time. Overall I’d have to give first place to Hidden Lake Overlook for the sheer amount of amazing views, it’s really just views all the way there and all the way back!
I’ve written a full post for each one of these hikes if you’re interested in a few more details as well as more photos!
10 thoughts on “Top 3 Short Hikes in Glacier National Park”
Are these easy hikes? We will be visiting in July and have a few disabilities?
The hike to Avalanche Lake and to St. Mary’s Falls are probably the easiest, but that does depend on what disabilities you have. The one to Hidden Lake isn’t hard, it’s short, but it takes off from Logan’s Pass at a high altitude which can be challenging depending on where you live. It’s also a stair step boardwalk for most of the way which is helpful to some but not others. I have short legs and don’t really enjoy the boardwalk myself. You can also cut the Avalanche Lake hike short by taking the ‘trail of the cedars’ which passes by Avalanche Gorge and was handicap accessible the last time I was there. There’s pavement for half and flat boardwalk for the other half. If you let me know what disabilities you’re working with, I might have some more personal suggestions too!
Hey! Thank you for the info! My husband are want to go to that are in October for our anniversary. Are there any road restrictions or Park limitations currently or during that month? TIA!!
I hope you enjoy your anniversary trip! There’s quite a few restrictions in the park right now, the Going to the Sun Road is closed at Rising Sun, and the Two Medicine area is closed for this year. Also October is hit or miss whether or not the road is open as far as Logan’s Pass. But if it’s closed, check out Avalanche Lake, Apgar Lookout, Huckleberry Lookout, Mount Brown, Snyder Lakes, and Sperry Chalet for options.
Hello. Reading your posts and top 3 day hikes, when does sun pass generally open up? Planning on early June arrival, should we wait until later?
Going to the Sun Road usually doesn’t open until early July, but sometimes it’s mid-July. This is definitely a different kind of year, so I would recommend checking their website. If you search ‘glacier national park road status’ it will take you to the page where they update it constantly.
Wow, any plans for hikes this up coming season?
We’re planning on more scrambling this year, I’ve had Bishop’s Cap on the list for a while, and Iceberg Peak are probably my top hikes/scrambles I’d like to accomplish this year!
Awesome! We are currently camping right outside of Glacier NP. As soon as this rain clears up, we will be checking these out!
Avalanche Lake is open, I was there last weekend and I’m pretty sure you can hike St. Mary’s Falls, but you have to drive all the way around the park at this time of year. I hope get to do some exploring once the Going to the Sun Road is open because that’s where so much of the best hiking is, (usually the beginning of July). You might be able to hike parts of the trails in the Many Glacier area, I heard that part of the Grinnell Glacier trail was open, (although snow packed) and that you can hike far enough to look down on Grinnell Lake which is phenomenal! The upper sections of most trails are closed right now, but I hope you find some good adventures while you’re here!